Entrepreneur Profile: Derald Gray
Derald Gray’s love of video production began as a kid in Elkhart, making YouTube shorts with his brothers and sisters. In school, he was known as the “Video Guy,” having gone viral lip syncing to Michael Jackson. His love of capturing life in the moment led him to found DG Visionaries.
“I was born a videographer,” Derald said. “It was something that chose me. Pictures are great, but to be able to hear how your day was – to see it moment by moment – I just love being able to capture memories through film.”
DG Visionaries provides high-value video production and mobile DJ services for corporate events as well as weddings. While based out of Elkhart, Derald also has an office in Indianapolis. The company has become a sought-after vendor in the wedding industry, growing from 16 weddings in 2020 to over 80 in 2022. In addition to weddings, they’ve also produced commercials and documentaries, even a corporate livestream and football hype video.
“I’m in the business of turning visions into reality though sight and sound,” said Derald. “The D.G. is because the work that we do is my passion and aligns with my values and strengths. I put my stamp on everything we do. It’s all about the visionaries, and that includes not only my team, but the clients that we serve.”
The Elkhart Central grad went on to study telecommunications at Ball State University, with a concentration in video production. During this time, he also DJed at events held by his fraternity, Sigma Nu. While this started with simply playing music on his phone, it reignited his love of music. He eventually got internship with a wedding DJ company based in Southern Michigan.
After college, Derald worked as a photojournalist at NBC-affiliate WNDU. There, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for the series “Never Again: Preventing Bus Stop Tragedies.” The story was an in-depth piece following an accident that killed young students on their way to catch the school bus. The piece led to the passing of legislation to increase bus stop safety. Despite his success in the newsroom, Derald longed for more flexibility to do what he loved on his own terms.
“I was DJing on the side, there were so many hours I was putting into it, working both jobs,” Derald said. “If I focus those hours on building a website, building a brand, showcasing my own talents – then I could possibly get clientele on my own, instead of the whole corporate thing. I enjoyed it, but I saw the freedom entrepreneurship brought.”
He’s found the biggest challenge as an entrepreneur has been dealing with growing pains and determining the fine balance of growing the company – how to be able to take on more work, while weighing the cost of additional employees.
“It gets to the point where I can’t do it all myself,” he said. “That’s been the biggest challenge – being skilled enough to have people who want you to do their wedding or shoot their video, but also realize you’re only one person. You have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else – so I need to be strategic enough to really budget and set aside how much I need to hire someone to help out and grow the business.”
Derald now has a team of three DJs and expects to hire another editor to work on videos in the coming year. Just as he stives to develop his talents and fulfill his vision, he looks for employees who find a deep satisfaction in the work as well.
Derald is a Cohort 5 graduate of HustleSBE, a Startup South Bend – Elkhart business bootcamp program for Black, Indigenous, People of Color and Women business owners who are focused on exploring new solutions for their customers, generating new ideas, and shoring up current business practices to create a solid foundation upon which to grow.
“I am very thankful for this year’s class,” he said. “It was definitely worthwhile. One of the most beneficial things I learned from Hustle was ‘niche-ing’ down and realizing you don’t have to feel like you need to do every single thing inside your business. Narrow down the focuses of your business that you are good at – that you know are the best use of your time. If you focus on those things, you can grow in more ways than you can expect.”
He also strives to use his success to better his community. Derald was the only entrepreneur in the 2022 class of the Elkhart Leadership Academy. He was recognized as the Havilah Beardsley Young Entrepreneur in 2022 by Junior Achievement serving Elkhart County. In addition, he has joined the board of directors for Lacasa, the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, and the Tolson Center.
“It’s been great having a voice with community impact,” he said. “The Tolson Center is one of the places I grew up in. It’s been great to give back to one of the organizations that I spent some time in as a youth, especially for south side Elkhart, because that is the community I was born and raised in. My grandmother lived right across the street from Tolson. I remember staying over with them, walking over, and playing basketball. To see such a big investment hit my part of the city, where my family has its roots and origins – it’s been great to be on the other side of that and have a voice in it.”
For more information on DG Visionaries, click here.